This story is part of the Chronicles of Morshan short story series. If you have not read the premise of the series yet, I recommend you read the premise below before reading.
Seventy-three years ago, the land of Morshan was on the peak of a new golden age. Gunpowder had been discovered, new agricultural techniques had been mastered, technology was at a high point, the kingdoms of the land were finally united, and the future could only be moving upward.
Then the gods descended.
Each god began offering noteworthy individuals a promise: serve one god above the others and they would be blessed with powers beyond human reckoning. To some was offered power over body. To others power over mind. To others power over nature.
Few who were offered these powers refused.
And society fractured.
It turns out the old saying of Morshan holds true: power always reveals what a man truly is like. And the essence of man is not kind. Within a matter of months, the unified land had broken up into warring factions, each led by one of the “god-blessed” trying to claim power for themselves. Within a matter of years, those factions had themselves split up into fiefdoms and sub-factions, countless lives and technological advances destroyed in the bloody aftermath.
Now, the once-prosperous land is a shadow of its former self. God-blessed war with each other in the ruins of a past civilization of glory while most peasants try to keep their heads low, serve a god-blessed who will protect them, and mind their own business.
But hope is not yet lost. There are still some who wish to use their powers for good. In the center of the shattered empire, a small group of god-blessed calling themselves the Heralds seek to reclaim the ancient ideals of chivalry and heroism for themselves.
But the times are dark and would-be heroes must face many enemies.
Time will tell if this is a new beginning for Morshan or one last dying gasp.
Grimweld heard the weeping before he saw the distraught woman pushing through the throng milling about in the market. She stumbled up the steps toward where he stood guard at the citadel’s entrance. A small crowd followed her.
Grimweld readied himself. This was an opportunity to show the people how to be compassionate. To remind them that honor still existed in the war-racked lands of Morshan.
He stepped forward to meet the woman, who threw herself at his feet. She tried to stop sobbing long enough to speak. “My son … the gods be with my son …”
Grimweld knelt and removed his helmet, hoping that seeing his face would comfort her. He put his armored hand on her shoulder, conscious of the onlookers. “What happened?”
The woman shuddered. “We were coming home from the harvest festival last night with a couple friends when this—this thing lunged from the shadows. Ripped his throat open and left him to die!”
Grimweld considered the facts. “Where were you? Was this an animal? Human?” He paused. “One of the god-blessed?”
“We were in one of the alleys. I couldn’t tell whether the thing was god-blessed or not. It looked human from a distance, but it had the teeth of a jackal and the claws of a lion.” She grabbed his arm. “My son frequented some places he shouldn’t, but who doesn’t? He was a good lad, Herald! He needs the gods’ justice!”
“We will do what we can to bring him justice.” Grimweld stared her in the eyes. He needed to assure not only her, but also the growing crowd. “We built up this city for a reason, woman. We will not allow such beings to roam here unpunished.” [Read more…] about Short Story: Fractured Masks